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THE FIRST EPISTLE GENERAL OF PETER - Chapter 4 - Verse 3
Verse 3. For the time past of our life may suffice us. "We have spent sufficient time in indulging ourselves, and following our wicked propensities, and we should hereafter live in a different manner." This does not mean that it was ever proper thus to live, but that, as we would say, "we have had enough of these things; we have tried them; there is no reason why we should indulge in them any more." An expression quite similar to this occurs in Horace—Lusisti satis, edisti satis, atque bibisti. Ternpus abire tibi est, etc.—Epis, ii. 213.
To have wrought the will of the Gentiles. This does not mean to be subservient to their will, but to have done what they willed to do; that is, to live as they did. That the Gentiles or heathen lived in the manner immediately specified, See Barnes "Ro 1:21, seq.
When we walked in lasciviousness. When we lived in the indulgence of corrupt passions—the word walk being often used in the Scriptures to denote the manner of life. On the word lasciviousness, See Barnes "Ro 13:13".
The apostle says we, not as meaning that he himself had been addicted to these vices, but as speaking of those who were Christians in general. It is common to say that we lived so and so, when speaking of a collection of persons, without meaning that each one was guilty of all the practices enumerated. See Barnes "1 Th 4:17, for a similar use of the word we. The use of the word we in this place would show that the apostle did not mean to set himself up as better than they were, but was willing to be identified with them.
Excess of wine. The word here used (oinoflugia) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means overflowing of wine, (oinov), wine, and fluw, to overflow; then wine-drinking; drunkenness. That this was a common vice need not be proved. Multitudes of those who became Christians had been drunkards, for intemperance abounded in all the heathen world. Comp. 1 Co 6:9-11. It should not be inferred here from the English translation, "excess of wine," that wine is improper only when used to excess, or that the moderate use of wine is proper. Whatever may be true on that point, nothing, can be determined in regard to it from the use of this word. The apostle had his eye on one thing—on such a use of wine as led to intoxication; such as they had indulged in before their conversion. About the impropriety of that, there could be no doubt. Whether any use of wine, by Christians or other persons, was lawful, was another question. It should be added, moreover, that the phrase "excess of wine" does not precisely convey the meaning of the original. The word excess would naturally imply something more than was needful; or something beyond the proper limit or measure; but no such idea is in the original word. That refers merely to the abundance of wine, without any reference to the inquiry whether there was more than was proper or not. Tindal renders it, somewhat better, drunkenness. So Luther, Trunkenheit.
The Greek word (kwmov) occurs only here, and in Ro 13:13, and Ga 5:21. It means feasting, revel; "a carousing or merry-making after supper, the guests often sallying into the streets, and going through the city with torches, music, and songs in honour of Bacchus," etc.—Robinson, Lex. The word would apply to all such noisy and boisterous processions now—scenes wholly inappropriate to the Christian.
Banquetings. The word here used (potov) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means properly drinking; an act of drinking; then a drinking bout; drinking together. The thing forbidden by it is an assembling together for the purpose of drinking. There is nothing in this word referring to eating, or to banqueting, as the term is now commonly employed. The idea in the passage is, that it is improper for Christians to meet together for the purpose of drinking—as wine, toasts, etc. The prohibition would apply to all those assemblages where this is understood to be the main object. It would forbid, therefore, an attendance on all those celebrations in which drinking toasts is understood to be an essential part of the festivities, and all those where hilarity and joyfulness are sought to be produced by the intoxicating bowl. Such are not proper places for Christians.
And abominable idolatries. Literally, unlawful idolatries; that is, unlawful to the Jews, or forbidden by their laws. Then the expression is used in the sense of wicked, impious, since what is unlawful is impious and wrong. That the vices here referred to were practised by the heathen world is well known. See Barnes "Ro 1:26
", seq. That many who became Christians were guilty of them before their conversion, is clear from this passage. The fact that they were thus converted shows the power of the gospel, and also that we should not despair in regard to those who are indulging in these vices now. They seem indeed almost to be hopeless, but we should remember that many who became Christians when the gospel was first preached, as well as since, were of this character. If they were reclaimed; if those who had been addicted to the gross and debasing vices referred to here, were brought into the kingdom of God, we should believe that those who are living in the same manner now may also be recovered. From the statement made in this verse, that "the time past of our lives may suffice to have wrought the will of the Gentiles," we may remark that the same may be said by all Christians of themselves; the same thing is true of all who are living in sin.
(1.) It is true of all who are Christians, and they feel it, that they lived long enough in sin.
(a) They made a fair trial—many of them with ample opportunities; with abundant wealth; with all that the fashionable world can furnish; with all that can be derived from low and gross indulgences. Many who are now Christians had opportunities of living in splendour and ease; many moved in gay and brilliant circles; many occupied stations of influence, or had brilliant prospects of distinction; many gave indulgence to gross propensities; many were the companions of the vile and the abandoned. Those who are now Christians, take the church at large, have had ample opportunity of making the fullest trial of what sin and the world can furnish.
(b.) They all feel that the past is enough for this manner of living. It is "sufficient" to satisfy them that the world cannot furnish what the soul demands. They need a better portion; and they can now see that there is no reason why they should desire to continue the experiment in regard to what the world can furnish. On that unwise and wicked experiment they have expended time enough; and satisfied with that, they desire to return to it no more.
(2.) The same thing is true of the wicked—of all who are living for the world. The time past should be regarded as sufficient to make an experiment in sinful indulgences; for
(a.) the experiment has been made by millions before them, and has always failed; and they can hope to find in sin only what has always been found—disappointment, mortification, and despair.
(b.) They have made a sufficient experiment. They have never found in those indulgences what they flattered themselves they would find, and they have seen enough to satisfy them that what the immortal soul needs can never be obtained there.
(c.) They have spent sufficient time in this hopeless experiment. Life is short. Man has no time to waste. He may soon die— and at whatever period of life any one may be who is living in sin, we may say to him the he has already thrown away enough of probation in a fruitless attempt to find happiness where it can never be found. For any purpose whatever for which any one could ever suppose it to be desirable to live in sin, the past should suffice. But why should it ever be deemed desirable at all? The fruits of sin are always disappointment, tears, death, despair.
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